Immigration process on the move...Let's see what happens next week...More photos from Marloth Park...

Big Daddy by candlelight after dark.
"Sighting of the Day in the Bush"

We see this same gecko almost every day on this same area of the tree in front of the veranda.  It appears to change colors from time to time
On October 24th we drove to the immigration office in Nelspruit to file our request for a visa extension, having no idea whatsoever what the outcome may be.

Kudus by candlelight by the cement pond, stopping for a drink.
When we left after a second lengthy visit to the facility, we were told to begin checking their website every day once three weeks had passed.  We actually began checking after two weeks figuring it was better to be proactive than wait.

Things do not move quickly here, as is the case for many government facilities all over the world.  One never knows what to expect.  Patience and perseverance are vital in working one's way through any type of governmental agency, as we all know from personal experience.

Giraffe in the neighborhood.  We never tire of seeing these wonderful animals.
Three weeks passed and nothing.  Finally, at the five-week mark, two days ago, we noticed a change in the online information when we entered our ID numbers and surname on the "check your application" page.  

A determined walk along the fence by the Crocodile River.
It appeared our file had been moved to Pretoria, one of the three capital centers in South Africa.  Why does this country have three capital cities?  The answer is here from this site:

South Africa is amongst a minority of countries that do not have a single capital city. Instead, South Africa boasts three capital cities, one for each branch of government. Pretoria is the administrative capital of South Africa. Cape Town is the legislative capital. And Bloemfontein is the judicial capital.

When the Union of South Africa was created, different parties had different views on the appropriate city for the capital. Some expressed concern that allowing a single city to hold all branches of government could lead to too much power for one place. Thus, the developing nation placed the three branches of government in three different capital cities."
The Crocodile River after the sun has set.
This morning when I checked again I found a new vague response, different from that of a few days ago, prompting me to call to determine what the distinct message will be when it's time to drive back to Nelspruit to get the answer from a sealed envelope, opened in front of us, if we have to leave or can stay until February 20, 2019.

It kind of feels like a game the envelope for the answer.  But, who's to say how this particular process was developed and why the necessity of the sealed envelope becomes the means of notification.
A beam of light reflected off the camera at sunset on the river.
If we have to leave, we'll have 10 days to clear out.  If not, we'll go on about our enjoyable lives in Marloth Park for the duration.  We're trying hard not to speculate anything other than a positive outcome.

Should we have to exit, we'll have 10 days to come up with a plan and leave accordingly.  We'll keep all of our readers posted on the outcome as soon as we know.  
Mom and four piglets have been stopping by several times a time.
Most likely, we'll be heading to Nelspruit by next Friday or Monday, December 7th or December 10th based on the fact the rep I spoke to today stated we'll know something in five business days.

We're anxious to get this behind us, one way or another and be able to fully relax during the holidays with many plans on the horizon and during whatever remaining time we may have in South Africa.  
Bushbuck baby, maybe dad and mom often stop at the bottom of the steps for their pellets.  
Last night we had another excellent evening with Rita and Gerhard at Ngwenya.  The sky was clouded so we missed the sunset nor did we see anything of significance on the river.  But, as always the conversation flowed with endless stories the four of us thoroughly enjoy sharing.

Tonight, after being out the last two nights, we're looking forward to an evening on the veranda once again.  We'd had numerous visitors so far today and anticipate it will be no different tonight when they seem to arrive as soon as we set things up. 
Tom took this photo early this morning of a wound on yet another warthog which appears to be healing.  These are sturdy and hardy animals that often survive serious injury without any intervention by humans.
It's bun-less burgers on the braai tonight with homemade ketchup, sliced onions, tomatoes, lettuce, and cheese (for Tom) and of course, crispy bacon to top it off.  A lettuce salad on the side with homemade salad dressing and we're good to go.

Have a great weekend wherever you may be, doing exactly what you love to do!

Photo from one year ago today, November 30, 2017:

While off on a self-tour in Manta Ecuador, we noticed Panamanian hats were a popular tourist purchase.  For more photos of our day, please click here.

The escalating cost of feeding our furry visitors without rain...

There were several elephants very close to the road allowing us to acquire these closeup photos.
"Sighting of the Day in the Bush"
Many species visiting our garden in the early mornings;  kudus, bushbucks, warthogs, helmeted guineafowl and duikers.  What a great start to the day!
Finally, the hot weather has ended for the moment and we're currently sitting outdoors on the veranda feeling cooled and refreshed.  Several days of extreme heat plagued this area and finally, we get a breather for a few days.
Even some of the dry bush has some nutritional value to the elephants. Rain is desperately needed for the wildlife.
We're hoping the cloudy sky will bring much-needed rain for the vegetation and subsequently the starving wildlife.  If it doesn't rain soon, many animals could die of starvation when many are herbivores and omnivores.
Giraffes making their way up a hill.
The constant feeding we're doing in the garden of our bush house surely is helping some of the animals with a modicum of nourishment but certainly can't comprise their entire diet.
Hippos rest close to one another while in the water for added safety.
Currently, we're going through a 40 kg (88 pounds) of pellets every three days, having increased from one bag lasting six days months ago.  At this point at about ZAR 236 (US $17.21), we're spending upwards of ZAR 2360 (US $172.10) per month on the pellets.
A parade of elephants on the move near the Sabie River.
In addition, we're spending another ZAR 658 (US $50) for pears, apples, and carrots for a total of ZAR 3018 (US $220.04) to feed the wildlife each month.  Once the rains come and the vegetation is lush, we'll be able to cut back on the feed as they go about their search for nutrition provided by the bush.
Giraffes have the advantage of not having to share the treetops with other wildlife, other than other giraffes.
Do we mind spending this much to feed the wildlife?  Not at all.  It's part of the reason we are here in Marloth Park, not only to enjoy the beauty of the bush but to play a small role in providing nourishment for these stunning creatures during this difficult time.

Two hippos and two cape buffalos cohabitating peacefully at the river.
Of course, we can feed any single animal an entire day's dietary needs.  Their needs are substantial.  Even the delicate bushbucks who chew slowly and deliberately could eat us "out of house and home" if we gave them all they wanted.
We were so close to these elephants we didn't use any zoom on the camera.  
The pecking order prevails in this situation.  The warthogs scare off the bushbucks, the wildebeests scare off the pigs, the zebras scare off the kudus and it goes on and on.  All we can do is continue to pay attention to who hasn't received any sustenance and try to single them out with extra pellets.
They were packed in tight into this good spot for dining.
Sadly, we have a few injured warthogs coming to call, particularly Wounded right now, and we do admit to going overboard to ensure he gets a larger share then some.  He was looking very thin when he originally appeared but now he seems to be filling out a little.

Knowing we may play even a small role in helping them during this dry season means a lot to us both.  Some locals feel the animals should not be fed and to let "nature take its course."  We understand both sides but we had to choose one, and we opted for feeding as many other residents have as well.
They were so busy eating, they barely noticed us.
Some say there are too many animals in Marloth Park to sustain itself and we understand this as well.  Of course, if the rain would come, this would alleviate a part of these concerns.  

Plus, with the desirability of this magical place, more and more new homes are being built which ultimately impacts the size of the bush where the animals can graze.  Its a vicious cycle but we don't get into the politics.  
The size of these elephant's feet is astounding.
We don't own a house here, nor will we in the future, and in reality, we have no right to impose our opinions on others.  We can only make choices which feel right for our beliefs and our passions while we're here.

We're hoping the rains will come over these next few months so we can gradually reduce to feedings to encourage the wildlife to forage as nature intended.
Such fascinating beasts who must be revered and respected.  Sadly, their numbers are dwindling in many parts of Africa due to poaching.
Last night we had a fabulous dinner at friends Jan and Steve's house with Rita and Gerhard in attendance as well.  Perfect food, wonderful people, an ideal setting and conversations.  We're so fortunate to be among these fine friends, such fine surroundings and the paradise where this wildlife exists.

We're thankful, so very thankful!

Be well.

Photo from one year ago today, November 29, 2017:
Some freighters can carry as many as many as 18,000 20-foot containers.  This freighter was being guided through the Panama Canal at the Miraflores locks. For more photos from the Panama Canal, please click here.

Lions in Kruger National Park...The fascination with lions...The scorching heat continues...

We shot this photo of a female lion taking a drink in the Maasai Mara in October 2013.  Although we had an amateur camera then, as we do now, being up close made all the difference in the world as opposed to today's remaining lion photos taken in Kruger at a distance.  Here's the link from which we copied this photo with many more lions photos, including one in a tree.
"Sighting of the Day in the Bush"
This is our resident tree frog who mostly lives on a light fixture frame on the veranda.  In the winter months, he only appeared at night. Now, he's there almost constantly except for this particular time when he came down from the light and sat on a chair on the veranda.  He eats lots of insects at night when we turn on the light.  
Human's fascination with lions has persisted for centuries.  Their mystery, their fierceness and their voracity coupled with their physical structure, and their gender differences have been the primary source of interest for most photographers, both amateur and professional who are fortunate enough to visit their territories throughout the world.
From Kruger National Park's website:

"GL SMUTS, LION (1982)

Butch Smuts worked in the Kruger National Park for many years, first studying what was causing a decline in zebra populations, and later performing intensive studies on the lion populations in the park, with a special emphasis on the central region of the park. Together with colleagues, they developed mass capture protocols for lions that are still used today. During the course of this research, the first lion ever to be fitted with a radio-collar was captured and released to provide information to the curious scientists.
Lions are often seen at a distance in Kruger.  It's a rare exception to see them crossing the road as depicted in many photos.
Over four years in the 1970s, the stomach contents of 257 lions were examined. 47 percent of the lions had empty stomachs. For the remaining lions, ten prey animals had been eaten by the lions. These were impala (30%), wildebeest (24%), giraffe (15%), zebra (11%), warthog (8%), waterbuck (5%), kudu and buffalo (2% each). A domestic goat (probably from outside the park) and an unidentified animal were also found. When statistical analysis based on the sizes of the animals was performed, giraffe was found to make up the greatest bulk of the animals' diet, followed by wildebeest and zebra.
We spotted the five lions at the Verhami Dam which during this hot season no longer has any water.
Smuts and his colleagues performed a lion census in the mid-1970s, luring over 600 lions to call centers where the lions could be darted and marked to enable counting. During a five year period, they managed to capture over 1 200 lions. He found that the central district of the Kruger National Park had over 700 lions, dispersed amongst sixty different prides. There was a sex ratio of two adult female lions to every adult male.
The five lions were all females.

The largest pride contained 21 lions, and on average there were two males per pride, although this ranged from one to five males per pride. The lion density was worked out as 13 lions per 100km2. They also worked out that in Kruger at that time there was one lion per 110 prey items. This was a strong contrast to the Serengeti where there is only about one lion per 1,000 prey animals."
It was very hot that day at 40C (104F) as they sought shelter from the sun under trees.
Although this article is over 35 years old, it was interesting information we hadn't seen anywhere in our recent research.  Kruger's website, in general, has been an excellent source of information for us over these past many months.
Surely, calling groups of lions a "pride" has something to do with their proud and confident demeanor.  Hence, the "King of the Jungle."
And yes, as we peruse the Crocodile River banks day after day from here in Marloth Park, we find ourselves on the proverbial search for lions when we enter Kruger.
We held our breath as we took these photos, in order to steady the camera.
Much to our surprise, we see them more often from the fence in Marloth Park than we do while on a self-drive or professional game drive in Kruger.  While in the Maasai Mara in Kenya n 2013 we did see them up close and personal.  

In a mere 87 days or so, we'll be back in Kenya to once again visit the famed Maasai Mara (as part of a larger Kenya wildlife photography tour) when roads are not barriers to getting close to the magnificent beasts.  
These five may be part of what is referred to as the "Verhami Pride."  
In Kruger, its required to stay on the paved or dirt roads.  Thus, when spotting wildlife, our photos may only be taken from the roads, making many scenes difficult to acquire.

We took today's main photo in the Maasai Mara in October 2013.  You can clearly see the advantage of being close to the subject when using a less-than-high-end camera, as we had then and we have now.
She couldn't have been prettier as this little branch framed her face.
Of course, we'd love to have the equipment to be able to get great shots from long distances,  But, as we've mentioned over and again, we don't want to carry the extra weight around the world, nor are we able to handle a heavy camera since both of us have bad right shoulders.  It's a reality we have to live with.
From time to time, a few would raise their heads, looking intently for possible prey.
As technology improves over the years, we'll eventually be able to buy a lightweight camera with more efficiency and clarity.  We look forward to that time.  In the interim, we do the best we can.

Here we are attending a photographic safari for 16 nights in Kenya is a few months where most likely all the participants will have upscale sophisticated cameras.  We're ok with this.  

Not everyone has a lifestyle similar to ours with certain restrictions.  We're going on this adventure for the experience and for photos we can share with all of you along this exciting journey, many of which will be as clear as the main photo in today's post, taken over five years ago.
They'd lay back down with one keeping a watchful eye for possible action.
We continue here now and will carry-on in Kenya searching for those special wildlife photos.  Please stay tuned for many more lion photos during our remaining time in South Africa which will only escalate once we return to the Maasai Mara.

The scorching heat continues as we sit here on the veranda drenched in sweat.  But, this is what one expects in Africa so we take it in our stride.  As long as we can sleep in aircon comfort at night, we have no problem. That means the power must stay on...another reality of Africa we've adapted to over this extended stay.

Tonight, we off to friends Jan and Steve's bush home for dinner.  Rita and Gerhard are joining us after meeting them last Saturday at Jabula.  That's how it is here, friendly and welcoming, even for newcomers.

Stay cool, stay warm, wherever you may be to provide the utmost in comfort.
Photo from one year ago today, November 28, 2017:

Our ship was this close to the walls to the walls of the passageway of the Panama Canal as this cargo ship in front of us.  This was our second passage through the canal since we began our travels.  For more photos, please click here.

Christmas season upon us?..A good trip into Kruger National Park...The suffocating heat continues...

A tired old elephant resting his trunk on his tusk.
"Sighting of the Day in the Bush"
The four little piglets keep returning (with mom, of course) for more fun in the garden.
It's a little after 11:00 am and I'm finally wrapping up today's post.  As mentioned in prior posts, I don't always get it done first thing in the morning as I'd done in years past.
Elephant family on their way back up the hill from the Sabie River.  "The Sabie River is a river in South Africa that forms part of the Komati River System. The catchment area of the Sabie-Sand system is 6,320 km2 in extent. The Sabie is one of the most biologically diverse rivers in South Africa, with generally good water quality."
Oftentimes, I'll prep for dinner, wash clothes or work on other tasks lined up for the day in order to get them all behind me so my mind is free when I sit down to begin the day's story.
Waterbuck on the Sabie River.
This morning, I began working on purchasing some of the six grandchildren's Christmas gifts with more to do in a few weeks.  Some want specific items we order from Amazon and others prefer Visa gift cards in order to choose their own items.  Either way is fine for us.

This morning I ordered the gifts for my son Greg's three children each of whom had specific items in mind.  With the big holiday rush in the US and often special items becoming sold out, I decided to get a handle on it today.
Enormous cape buffalo on the shore of the Sabie River.
Our other three grandchildren prefer the Visa gift cards so we order those from Amazon about two weeks in advance of Christmas with no worries about them arriving on time.
A face only a mother could love, seem at the Sunset Dam in Kruger.
Tom and I don't buy gifts for one another, nor do we exchange gifts with our adult children (wouldn't that be a fiasco with South Africa's mail service with a backlog of 7.5 million undelivered packages)?  This made sense a long time ago when we left the US - no gifts, please.
We often wait for that big mouth open photo but it didn't happen.
It's hard to believe that the Christmas season is upon us once again.  We've already noticed Christmas decor (which isn't an issue here in SA) on display in the shops we frequent. 
Another adorable hippo face at the Sunset Dam.
Over these years we've become less and less interested in the hoopla surrounding the holiday season.  It doesn't fit into this life of world travel.  This doesn't mean we don't observe and respect the spiritual significance of Christmas.  It simply means it makes no sense to purchase gifts for one another (no room in our luggage), Christmas trees or decorations.

Nor, do I bake cookies and the confections I'd done in years past.  We both continue to monitor our low carb, keto-based diet, attempting to maintain good health during the holiday season as well as throughout the year.
A tower of giraffes crossing the paved road in Kruger.
In reality, it certainly is easier this way.  And, considering the awful heat lately which will continue through the summer, I can't imagine standing in the kitchen baking and cooking for the holidays.  
A parade of elephants traveling along the river's edge.
The recent pie-baking-day-from-hell confirmed this fact when it was 40C, (104F) while I made eight pumpkin pies.  However, we loved serving our Thanksgiving dinner table for 12 and all the food and pies ultimately came out well, sending everyone home with leftovers and a full-sized individual pie.
Social plans become the highlight of the holiday season in Marloth Park.  We already have plans set for Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and New Year's Eve.
Now I'll get to work on deciding what to do for Tom's upcoming birthday on December 23rd, not the most convenient time of the year to celebrate a birthday.  But, celebrate we will, in one way or another, as we always do.

Hot temperature reading in red car...40C equals 104F.  It will be hotter today, perhaps 42C, (107.6F).  We spend the days and evenings in the heat but use aircon in the bedroom at night.
Today's photos are a few of many we captured in Kruger National Park yesterday when the power was out.  We'll have more to share in tomorrow's post.  As for today, most likely, we'll make our usual drive through Marloth Park and to the fence at the Crocodile River to see what we can find.  Doing so is a great respite from the heat of the afternoon when temps are at their highest and the cooling air in the red car is a huge relief.
An oxpecker working on a giraffe's leg.
The rest of this week is socially active with plans for tomorrow night, Thursday night and Saturday night.  We'll report details as they occur.

May your midweek bring you many wonderful surprises!
Photo from one year ago today, November 27, 2017:
On Saturday, one year ago, we had lunch at Morgan's Seafood Restaurant in Cayman Island with new friends Susan and Blair. For more photos, please click here.